© Glendon Mellow, The Flying Trilobite

A Hall of Fame reply…maybe

hofHad a lovely visit last month with the Freethinkers of East Cobb, a secular parenting group here in the Atlanta burbs. One of the group members named Kirstin left me a great gift — the cleverest reply I’ve ever heard to one of the most common questions nonreligious parents get.

She and her husband cross paths with the occasional evangelical Christian homeschooling parent in the neighborhood. At some point, by Georgia law, the Christian parent will ask where they go to church. Kristin told me

“Whenever we get that question, we just say, ‘Oh, we homechurch.’

The more I think about it, the better this answer gets. You would NOT want to use this to hide your beliefs, but the inevitable follow-up question will give you the opportunity to go there. It ends up being a gentle and interesting sidestep into, rather than around, the larger question.

According to the Googlemind, the coinage “homechurch” is rare but not unheard of.* It’s apparently used most often by Christians who are “between churches” for one reason or another. But it also works for a secular parent who is making an effort to raise religiously literate kids (and selves) without the shortcomings and single note of the traditional church.

I’ve written at length about what I think is the ideal approach to religious literacy, which boils down to several thousand little conversations, connections, observations and experiences woven into the daily fabric of family life for 18 years. Described that way, it’s more similar to “unschooling.” But saying “We unchurch” would be immediately misunderstood — an experience unschoolers are surely familiar with.

So my vote is unchanged. “We homechurch” goes straight to the Secular Parenting Hall of Fame. Use it responsibly, and send Kirstin a nickel every time you do.
*UPDATE: Or not. If you search with a space (“home church”), you uncover a whole movement of believers who “home church” because actual churches have gone too liberal on them. I avoid church (in part) because the perspective is too narrow and exclusive for me. They avoid it because the perspective is too broad and inclusive for them. Oy! (Thanks to several commenters for pointing out that dark reflection.)



This was written on Wednesday, 16. December 2009 at 12:12 and was filed under Atlanta, belief and believers, diversity, nonbelief and nonbelievers, Parenting. You can keep up with the comments to this article by using the RSS-Feed.

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  1. That is genius! Thankfully though in the midwest that question appears to be as taboo as a religious discussion itself.

    Comment: BrianE – 16. December 2009 @ 12:49 pm

  2. We’ve used “unchurch” in the same sense, to parallel our unschooling rather than school-at-home. Has the same effect. 🙂

    Two examples:
    “Having older kids is so great. At least these unschooled, unpunished, unchurched kids growing into such delightful and GOOD young adults, who actually like each other, and us, and themselves, enough to have plenty of affection left for the rest of the world. . .”

    “Maybe youth culture is like driver’s ed as a subset of the general culture, as tweens and teens learn to operate their own psychology according to current road conditions, and affect those conditions for us all at the same time.

    Favorite Daughter unschooled, unchurched, and therefore uncliqued, nevertheless identified with the Disney princesses as she danced almost daily through her tween-teen years with a small class of girls self-selected from public and private Christian school cultures. . .”

    Comment: JJ Ross – 16. December 2009 @ 1:10 pm

  3. When I run into the term homechurch among the homeschool crowd it is usually somebody who finds the local churches too open minded and liberal for them, thus they must keep even the worship of their God within the safe confines of home. So using homechurch as you describe becomes wickedly funny as the conservative homeschooler is likely to jump to certain conclusions on hearing that term.

    Comment: chrisod – 16. December 2009 @ 3:19 pm

  4. @chrisod is right – it does seem to come hand-in-hand with certain types of homeschooling.

    I had never heard the homechurch term before. Googling it sure hits some disturbing sites.

    Here’s a shining example: a home schooling family that “differs from other home schoolers” in that they don’t engage in “extracurricular activities” because it leads to kids that “do not learn to be quiet and content at home”. They homechurch because “As you know, most of the kids attending church go to public school, so there is a big difference in upbringing and mindset”.

    Yikes. I think I won’t be adopting this term myself.

    Comment: nonplus – 16. December 2009 @ 5:02 pm

  5. I think this only works if you hadn’t heard it before. I’ve seen it too often online and whenever I’ve seen the term in use it’s always right wing, fundamentalist Christians who are homechurching because they feel regular churches are too liberal and not godly enough. I already have people thinking we must be fundies because we homeschool (unschool – but I don’t usually go into that), so for me, this would just be adding fuel to the fire.

    I prefer “we’re not religious”. I’ve never gotten follow up questions because the only people who seem to care either way are the ones who end the conversation as soon as they realize I’m not answering correctly, lol!

    Comment: Shannon – 16. December 2009 @ 7:42 pm

  6. Yeah, I can see that the other usage would completely spoil the effect. Oh well. It is interesting to watch those folks retreat further and further into their bunkers — though that kind of thing doesn’t generally end well. I’ve added an addendum to the post.

    Comment: Dale – 16. December 2009 @ 8:07 pm

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